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C 110 E/184 Official Journal of the European Union EN 8.5.


(2003/C 110 E/203) WRITTEN QUESTION E-3206/02

by Kathleen Van Brempt (PSE) to the Commission

(11 November 2002)

Subject: Medical errors

Researchers say that approximately 108 000 people die in United States and Canada every year as a result
of medical errors. An error occurs in seven percent of all medical treatments: medicines are administered
too early or too late, the wrong medicine is used or the dose is incorrect. In 0,32 % of these cases the
outcome is fatal. The figures are exactly the same for emergency cases. In almost a third of all reported
cases, medical error is the result of negligence. Belgian researchers estimate that the same figures apply to

Can the Commission confirm these estimates?

Does the Commission have figures for medical errors in the European Union? If so can it disclose them?

What is the Commission doing to cut the number of medical errors?

Answer given by Mr Byrne on behalf of the Commission

(9 December 2002)

Under the EC Treaty, the organisation and delivery of health services and medical care are the
responsibility of the Member States, not of the Community (Article 152, paragraph 5).

The Commission does not therefore have a role in systematically monitoring specific medical errors in the
Union. However, under the health information system, which will be part of the new public health
Community action programme, the Commission will be developing a set of health indicators, which will
include indicators concerning avoidable causes of death as well as iatrogenic diseases and death (calculated
risks to health as a result of medical actions, incorporating medical errors). These health indicators are
foreseen to be collected by the Member States and to be stored in the Euphin-system (European Public
Health Information System). On the basis of the outcome of this data-collection further initiatives may be

(2003/C 110 E/204) WRITTEN QUESTION E-3213/02

by Margrietus van den Berg (PSE) to the Commission

(12 November 2002)

Subject: European code for the allocation of subsidies to prevent distortion of competition

During a working visit on 19 October 2002 to Sanmina-SCI, a computer company in Heerenveen in the
province of Friesland which was set up in about 2000 and is to close down at the end of this year (with
the loss of 260 jobs), it became clear that this company had received European subsidies. In an
increasingly globalised economy, big brand-name companies are setting up such quasi-independent
companies as Sanmina-SCI for the purpose of being able to close down particular divisions  often at the
cheapest location  without damaging the reputation of the brand name. Such businesses as Hewlett
Packard and Philips regularly employ this strategy. In many cases, the production unit concerned exists to
supply a single customer and has no R & D division of its own, making it highly vulnerable.

It might be desirable for the OECD code to be incorporated in contracts when multinationals directly or
indirectly receive European subsidies or other public funding. It might in particular be desirable for this to
apply to parent-company multinationals with well-known brand names which use subcontracting units
like SCI.
8.5.2003 EN Official Journal of the European Union C 110 E/185

In the Netherlands, Jacques Tichelaar, a Member of the Lower House of Parliament, has asked questions
about SCI and has been told in reply that a readiness exists to draw up a code in line with the OECD
which would apply to the granting of European subsidies, inter alia. On the basis of the working visit and
discussions with the works council and management, I conclude that in order to prevent distortion of
competition and a rat race, such a code ought to be adopted at European level rather than nationally in
the Netherlands. The Commission is seeking to strike a good balance between a free and fair market and
preserving social protection in Europe. Accordingly, employees must not be allowed to become disposable

1. Will the Commission draw up such a code in cooperation with the Member States and with
multinationals which operate in Europe or use subcontractors here?

2. Where demand is expected to change, is it not the very essence of socially responsible business
management to seek alternative products or customers and, where necessary, to invest?

Answer given by Mrs Diamantopoulou on behalf of the Commission

(14 January 2003)

The Commission can confirm that in the 1994-1999 programming period the European Social Fund (ESF)
co-financed employment subsidies for workers in Sanmina-SCI and the European Regional Development
Fund (ERDF) provided co-funding for the development of the ‘IBF Heerenveen’ Business Park under the
regional development programme ‘Friesland Objective 5b’. Sanmina-SCI was located on this site.

The Organisation for Economic cooperation and Development (OECD) Guidelines for multinationals
provide voluntary principles and standards for responsible business conduct in a variety of areas including
employment and industrial relations, human rights, environment, information disclosure, competition,
taxation, and science and technology. The Chapter on Employment and Industrial Relations aims at prior
notice and dialogue before the closure of a plant. National Contact Points established in all Adhering
countries to the OECD Declaration on International Investment, including all the Member States can help
and mediate in this process with all interested parties. The Commission does not therefore intend to draw
up a code in addition to the OECD guidelines.

However, the Commission adopted recently a Communication on corporate social responsibility (CSR) (1)
after a comprehensive consultation process. In this context, it decided to set up a Multi-Stakeholder Forum
to bring together leading European representatives of organisations of employers, employees, civil society,
and consumers to strengthen transparency, support convergence of and explore the opportunity of
establishing common guiding principles for CSR practices and instruments, taking into account existing
Community initiatives and legislation and internationally agreed instruments, including the OECD
guidelines referred to.

Finally, it should be noted that several Community Directives in the field of information and consultation
of workers may apply in situations like the one mentioned by the Honourable Member: Community
Directives on ‘Collective Redundancies’ (2), ‘Transfers of Undertakings’ (3), ‘European Works Councils’ (4) and
‘Information and Consultation’ (5).

In addition to the above measures, in January 2002 the Commission launched a consultation of the social
partners at European level on the opportunity of identifying and developing a set a basic principles which
C 110 E/186 Official Journal of the European Union EN 8.5.2003

would apply to corporate restructuring. The Commission welcomes the fact that the social partners have
recently decided to include the follow-up of this important issue in their Multiannual Work Programme for

(1) COM(2002) 347 final.

(2) Council Directive 98/59/EC of 20 July 1998 on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to
collective redundancies. (This Directive consolidates Directives 75/129/EEC and 92/56/EEC), OJ L 225, 12.8.1998.
(3) Council Directive 2001/23/EC of 12 March 2001 on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating
to the safeguarding of employees’ rights in the event of transfers of undertakings, businesses or parts of
undertakings or businesses, OJ L 82, 22.3.2001.
(4) Council Directive 94/45/EC of 22 September 1994 on the establishment of a European Works Council or a
procedure in Community-scale undertakings and Community-scale groups of undertakings for the purposes of
informing and consulting employees, OJ L 254, 30.9.1994.
(5) Directive 2002/14/EC of the Parliament and of the Council of 11 March 2002 establishing a general framework for
informing and consulting employees in the Community  Joint declaration of the Parliament, the Council and the
Commission on employee representation, OJ L 80, 23.3.2002.

(2003/C 110 E/205) WRITTEN QUESTION P-3219/02

by Niels Busk (ELDR) to the Commission

(7 November 2002)

Subject: Aid for fishing ports

Is it to be construed from Council Regulation No 2792/1999 (1) of 17 December 1999 that facilities in
fishing ports that benefit from private joint financing cannot obtain the same rate of aid from structural
measures as publicly financed facilities in fishing ports?

If so, for what reasons is the Commission pursuing such a policy that discriminates between projects
depending on whether the project is of a public or private nature and does it intend to modify this

(1) OJ L 337, 30.12.1999, p. 10.

Answer given by Mr Fischler on behalf of the Commission

(29 November 2002)

The Berlin European Council (23-24 March 1999) adopted the Agenda 2000 financial perspective
covering Structural Fund utilisation over the period 2000-2006. Point 48 of the Council Presidency’s
conclusions reads:

In the case of investment in firms, the contribution of the funds shall comply with the ceilings on the
rate of aid and on combinations of aid set in the field of State aids. The European Council also
endorses the lower rates proposed by the Commission for contributions of the funds to revenue-
generating infrastructure investment and investment in firms.

At the level of the Regulation (1) dealing with the Financial Instrument for Fisheries Guidance this principle
translates into different contribution rates inter alia for fishing port facilities depending on whether or not
a financial contribution from private beneficiaries is involved.

Paragraph 6 of Section 2 Rates of financial participation in Annex IV to the Regulation states that the
(national) management authority is to determine whether projects do or do not involve such a
contribution, in particular on the basis of the following considerations:

 collective versus individual interests,

 collective versus individual beneficiary,